FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Fragrant Saga of Mexico’s Greens

At the California Green Party convention in San Diego a few of years back, a wild-haired hippie stood up and gave us one of those Hope Beyond Our Shores speeches Greens are so fond of. He’d just been down to Mexico, where he’d sat for a long and satisfying afternoon with Jorge Gonzalez Torres, the founding patriarch of Mexico’s Greens.

As they sat on a rooftop near Mexico City’s central square Gonzalez had regaled our interlocutor with tales of the power of his Green Ecologist Party, with its five senators, handful of deputies, and recent shared victory as a very junior, but very important partner in the presidential election campaign.

I remember rolling my eyes and saying in a stage whisper to the people around me that the Mexican Greens weren’t a real Green Party, just a family of reactionary thieves with an environmentalist veneer.

This week, the now retired patriarch’s son Jorge Emilio Gonzalez, the “Niño Verde,” as the papers here call him, has confirmed that judgment admirably. In an obscenity-laden meeting recorded on a buttonhole camera, Gonzalez is seen discussing a multimillion dollar hotel and port project in Cancun with a pair of well known Mexican developers, then extracting a promise of a two-million dollar bribe if he can use his senatorial influence to get the project approved.

At first, he told local newspapers that the video was a fabrication, a Hollywood production; now he’s saying that the bribe was a smear job orchestrated by his former allies in the executive branch, and that he was merely playing along to “see how far it would go.” One imagines that if it had gone as far as an approved project and a two million dollar deposit in his bank accounts, Gonzalez wouldn’t now be offering those same bank accounts to public scrutiny.

In fact, the bank accounts of Gonzalez and other party leaders, many of them family members, are already well-padded with legally obtained public funds.

The main business of the Mexican Greens, along with a half dozen smaller parties, is ladling generous sums of public money into their own bowls. In 2002, for example, the Greens picked up about 18 million dollars in public financing. Which, considering that Mexico is a developing country with a population about a third of America’s, is quite a staggering sum. The money was supposedly spent on campaigning, but the Federal Election Institute is re-examining the spending and the party’s internal rules in light of Monday’s revelations.

Dissidents in the party (who may be behind the videotaped bribery offer) have accused Gonzalez of diverting party money for his own uses.

In their brief history as a major minor party, the Mexican Greens have pursued national alliances with two of the three big parties ­ the National Action Party, the conservative, Catholic, pro-business party of current president Vicente Fox, and more recently the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the corrupt, corporatist former ruling party which still maintains a steely grip on rural communities in most of the country.

The only big party the Greens haven’t allied with is the one conventional Greens might seem most drawn to-the leftist Revolutionary Democratic Party.

The Greens’ latest electoral alliance, with the Institutional Revolutionary Party, is particularly instructive. The PRI, whose seven decade rule in Mexico was not marked by any visible concern for the environment, warded off criticism of its anti-democratic methods by creating and financing dozens of tiny figurehead parties to contest elections. The profusion of smaller parties, PRI leaders figured, created a comforting illusion of democratic choice on the ballot while preventing any opposition party from developing a significant following.

The leaders of these minor parties meanwhile got to fill their pockets with the generous-some might say excessive, possibly absurd, proceeds of Mexico’s public election financing laws.

Recently, the Nationalist Society Party was fined $14 million dollars because, the National Election Institute found, it had shoveled more than 60 percent of its public financing into two companies run by its directors over the past three years. Meanwhile, $10 million dollars in annual public financing got the party 0.2 percent of the national vote in 2003.

Now the PRI is positioning itself for a run to take back the presidency in 2006, when Fox’s single term is up. Running for the first time without control of the executive branch, the situation’s a little different, and the former governing party actually needs the votes and cash that a smaller party can provide. The Greens were perfect: they are the fourth-biggest electoral force in the country, having actually convinced a fair number of credulous younger voters that they are a real political party.

And they’ve proven quite willing to compromise their positions for a share of power, or at least booty: enthusiastically joining, for example, the PRI’s campaign to introduce the death penalty to Mexico, where it is essentially proscribed.

With allies like these, it’s unsurprising to see the Greens here engaging in the unusual fundraising practices seen on the video. Although, as Gonzalez pointed out in a press conference here, he never received any money from the developers, and therefore committed no crime (the attorney general is looking into that, actually), the young senator has probably ended his own political career and destroyed the party/business that his father so carefully built.

Meanwhile, the real leftist opposition seems to have its first real chance at the presidency since the 1988 election, which mostCK people here believe was transparently stolen by the PRI.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the bland but well-liked mayor of Mexico City, who will almost certainly be the PRD’s candidate for the presidency, is by far the most popular politician in the country. He has deliberately constructed an image as a leftist who gets things done: for instance ringing the city with a modern, efficiently constructed elevated freeway. It’s the kind of project that gets him media coverage all over Mexico, and a contrast to Vicente Fox’s often empty promises.

In recent polls matching him with hypothetical rivals from the other two big parties, Lopez Obrador maintains crushing leads of twenty or more points. This week, he’s probably thanking his lucky stars his party never shared an alliance with the Greens.

JACK BROWN is a writer living in Mexico City. He can be reached at: jack@jackbrown.us

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail